SHARE Holt Oral History Program
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John Betzold, CDR

Serving in the Reserve for 26 years—and on active duty assignment from 1965 – 1967-- John Betzold committed his life to the strict regimen of the U.S. Navy, and has committed his retired life to seeing the fulfillment of the lives of fellow veterans.

John Betzold was born on April 1st, 1942 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. After graduating  high school there, he attended the University of Minnesota—for just one year—participating in the Air Force ROTC as part of the requirements of the school at the time. After one year at U of M, Mr. Betzold returned to his hometown and attended the state school there. In St. Cloud, Mr. Betzold began talking to the Marine Corps recruiters, conversations that would lead to his enrollment with the Navy.

Mr. Betzold soon joined the Navy Reserve after being convinced by a high school friend that it was a good opportunity—a friend that would later be discharged after 8 weeks of bootcamp. On December 18th, 1965, he was commissioned and issued orders to aboard the USS Randolph in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Betzold spent almost two years in active duty aboard this ship before getting out a few months early to attend graduate school. The roles that he played while on Active duty are too numerous to list, but included: Anti-Submarine Air Controller, Operations Administrative Assistant, Mobilization & Selection Officer, ASW Instruction, and OOD.

Betzold recalls his experience in the Navy as being a part of a caste system. He explains how the tradition of the Navy created clear cut boundaries between different officers and enlisted men. He recalls how he had invited two raider men, his senior chief and chief, to dinner and how it was a hard decision for them to make, given the segregation of ranks for social purposes.

While aboard the USS Randolph, Mr. Betzold spent all of his time in the operations department as a Division Officer and as an Administrative Assistant to the Operations Officer. At the end of his time in active duty, he received a drop card stating he would be assigned to a beach jumper unit in San Diego as a part of the Vietnam War. However, another Junior Lieutenant asked for his orders, and Mr. Betzold was able to stay with his wife—whom he had married in 1964.

Before being transferred to the reserves, Mr. Betzold’s ship was deployed to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Caribbean, as a part of goodwill tours, some of which he personally conducted.  After his active duty, Mr. Betzold attended the University of Denver in pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Administrative Business.

After graduating, Mr. Betzold transitioned into the reserves and worked in a program with an insurance company where he hired graduates. Later on, he was in charge of the Administrative aspects of a Constructive Battalion (Seabees). He is currently a member of the Veterans of Lake Barrington Shores, where he helps organize events and programs for fellow veterans. Mr. Betzold’s is a story that personifies the opportunities that military service can present given the opportunity and a dedicated spirit, and should be a reminder how much sweat goes into being a citizen soldier. 
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